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The Results are in: Citizen Satisfaction with Local Government continues to Rise: Growth Remains Top Concern

Post Date:03/06/2000 5:44 PM

CARY, NC – The results are in from the Town of Cary’s second biennial citizen survey which gave a group of Cary residents the opportunity to voice their opinions on how well their government works. A total of 403 Cary households were randomly selected for the scientific survey and interviewed by telephone from January 6 through February 21, 2000. Topics on the 41-item survey ranged from customer service and public safety to mass transit, quality of life, and funding options for open space. This was the second Town-sponsored survey aimed at the broad range of tasks handled each day by the Town. Unlike Cary's first biennial survey conducted in 1998, researchers this year were able to compare changes in citizen opinion by comparing results on many questions from both surveys.

"Once again, we’re very happy with the results," said Town Manager Bill Coleman. "We are constantly trying to find ways to work smarter and be more responsive, and it’s good to know that our citizens feel good about Cary, about the services they receive, and about the people who provide those services."

IMPORTANT ISSUES: Problems related to rapid growth is the most important issue facing the Town of Cary, according to responses to an open-ended question. In fact, it was mentioned over 200 times by the respondents. This was followed by water concerns (86), traffic/roads (63), the need for new schools/ education (46), improving the infrastructure (7), and affordable housing (5). These appear to be peripheral issues related to the larger issue of managing growth. These issues virtually mirror those given in the 1998 survey. The only difference overall was the school issues ranked second, not fourth. The others are in the same order. In that survey, rapid growth was mentioned a total of 196 times.

To a second open-ended question. respondents said that if they could act as the Mayor, Town Manager, and Town Council all rolled into one, the one action they’d take to improve Cary would be to slow growth (mentioned 148 times). Other actions include improving the water system (50), building more schools/ education (42), improving roads and traffic (41), better communication with the community (10), build a better infrastructure (10), affordable housing (7), less taxes (7), allow citizens more input on growth issues (6), and keeping the streets clean (6).

MANAGING GROWTH: New this year, a set of questions regarding Cary’s efforts at managing growth over the past two years was posed. Respondents were first asked to rate the Town’s efforts at managing growth on a nine-point scale from "1-very poor" to "9-excellent".

Cary’s Efforts to Manage Growth (1-9 scale)

Year

Mean

% Above 5

00

4.90

39.2

Ten alternatives for controlling growth were also presented for the respondents to rate their interest on where emphasis should be placed in controlling growth. These options were only asked if the respondent replied with a 4 or lower on the previous question regarding Cary’s efforts at managing growth. A nine-point scale ranging from "not interested" to "very interested" was employed on these growth options.

Growth Alternatives (In Order of Interest).

Growth Alternative Emphasis

Mean

% Above 5

Increase Regional Solutions

7.63

89.5

Reduce Costs For Citizens

7.56

80.3

Building New Schools

7.34

79.9

Air Quality/Environmental

7.24

82.4

Slow Residential Development

7.19

77.0

Slow Commercial Development

6.92

74.1

Parks, Greenways, Open Spaces

6.65

71.6

Widening Roads

6.57

69.9

Mass Transit

6.29

65.4

Technology/Telecommuting

5.93

59.1

LIVING IN CARY: In addition to continuing to feel that neighborhood crime is on the decline, a number of other questions indicates that Cary continues to be perceived as a very good place to live:

Living In Cary (averages, 1-9 scale)

Year

Overall as a Place to Live

How Well Cary Maintains Streets & Roads

Overall Perception of Town Parks

Parks, Rec, Cultural Program Quality

How Safe do you Feel?

98

7.61

6.04

7.63

7.85

7.55

00

7.63

6.50

7.89

7.97

7.93

New to this year’s survey is a quality of life question. The quality of life for Cary residents over the past two years was assessed with a five-point scale. The response categories were "much worse", somewhat worse", "the same", "somewhat better" and "much better" for this question. Most respondents saw the quality of life in Cary as basically unchanged (49.2%) over the past two years:

Quality of Life in Cary.

Year

Mean

Much Worse

1

Somewhat Worse

2

The Same

3

Somewhat Better

4

Much Better

5

% Above 3

00

3.05

1.6

22.8

49.2

22.0

4.4

26.4

TAXES: A majority of this year’s respondents (66%) continue to feel that the tax rate is "about right" in Cary. The survey examined the Cary municipal tax rate of .54 per $100 of property valuation as compared to other localities (Charlotte, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Greensboro, and Durham). A five-point scale was used, with response categories of "very low", "somewhat low", "about right", "somewhat high", and "very high".

OPERATIONS: Ratings for the operation and management of the Town of Cary continue received high marks, with increases over the 1998 survey.

Operation/Management of Cary

Year

Mean

% Above 5

98

6.46

75.9

00

6.95

86.7

TOWN STAFF: In assessing residents’ perception of Cary Town Government staff, respondents who had had contact with staff in the last two years were asked to grade staff on specific behaviors on a scale of 1-9 with 9 being an "extremely high" rating:

Town Government Staff (averages, 1-9 scale)

Year

Promptness

Professionalism

Knowledgeable

Courteous

Ability to Resolve Issues

98

7.26

7.32

7.30

7.63

6.77

00

7.45

7.73

7.70

7.98

7.12

OTHER NEW QUESTIONS: A number of other new questions were added to this year’s survey to get citizen opinion on current issues.

Cary’s Efforts to Provide Services to Senior Citizens Over the Past Two Years:

Year

Mean

% Above 5

00

6.39

70.8

Support for Matching Funds to Local Candidates.

Year

Mean

% Above 5

00

4.47

38.0

Open Space Option: Diverting a Portion of the Sales Tax Revenue Each Year.

Year

Mean

% Above 5

00

6.88

75.2

 

Support for Cary Funding Public Bus Service.

Year

Mean

% Above 5

00

6.63

66.7

As a follow-up to the survey, the Town plans to conduct several focus groups later this year. These focus groups will provide an opportunity for the Town and selected citizens to discuss specific issues in greater detail.

Cary contracted with BKL Research of Salem, VA to conduct the study at a cost of $14,150. The margin of error for Cary’s survey is plus or minus five percent, and a copy of the survey findings from both 1998 and 2000 are available on the Town’s website, www.townofcary.org.

Representatives from BKL will present a summary of the survey’s findings at Thursday night’s regular Cary Town Council meeting.

PRIMARY CONTACTS:
Susan Moran, Public Information Officer, (919) 460-4951
Bill Coleman, Town Manager, (919) 469-4002

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